To our dear readers, we wish you a Happy New Year. We hope and pray that this year is good for you in your health, finances, businesses/jobs, family and everything you do. But most importantly, we hope that in this new year, you are free from abuses in whatever form they may come in this new year.
It is only fitting that we respond to some of the FAQs we get in our DMs to start the year right. Recently, especially during the holidays, we got questions that were raised based on some funds and discussions online, and we would like to address some of them here. So here are the ten most frequently asked questions from 2021.
When is the right time to report a case of sexual abuse?
This is all dependent on the nature of the case and the means through which the information has been collected. For instance, if a survivor of sexual abuse opens up to you to tell you about their abuse, it means that they trust you enough to be vulnerable around you. So, your response should be tailored towards their needs at the moment. It would be best to focus on how you can help them (mentally, physically, and emotionally). You can ask them if they want to report the case to the police, then support whatever decision they make. If we are being honest, you cannot blame a victim for not reporting a crime in this legal climate.
If the case was reported to you by the perpetrator, for whatever reasons there might be (an act of boasting or trying to prove some kind of conquest), you have the moral obligation to report the case. Waiting till you’ve fallen out of friendship with the perpetrator to expose what has been done in the past makes you a rape apologist. An abuser, whoever they may be, will never stop after one victim. So while you sit and contemplate this massive ammunition you have against this person, consider that your silence is hurting other people.
What should I expect when I have reported a case to the police?
There are many processes and steps that you can expect when reporting a case of sexual assault to the police. You can read up on it here. Please note that you should seek legal counsel for a more detailed explanation. STER has lawyers who can assist you at any time.
Why do celebrities and rich people get away with sexual abuse?
This has to be one of the most common questions we got last year. From a political and sociological perspective, the Elite Theory explains the power dynamics in the contemporary state. Simply put, this theory states that a small group of people (usually known as the 1%) hold a lot of decision making power and influence in society, which tends to give a perception that they are not subject to the law like the masses.
It is for this reason; we see convoys and law enforcement breaking traffic rules, jails are different for the rich, bypassing bureaucracy, cutting lines, and so on. So it is no surprise that when a crime like sexual violence is committed by an “elite”, they tend to get different treatment as to when an average citizen commits this crime.
Another reason celebrities or rich people tend to avoid paying for their crimes is the public perception. The Elite always have a herd of supporters who assume they can do no wrong. In most cases, the supporter is the state. We cannot also disregard that they have access to better legal representation than their victims.
Thankfully, the norms are changing. Slowly but gradually. We have witnessed a few, a very few wealthy and influential people, pay for their crimes. However, we will never forget that despite allegations, one of the worlds leading countries were ruled by an unwavering sexual abuser.
Can women be sexual abusers too?
Yes. Women have and can be sexual abusers.
So why don’t we hear enough of this? There are many factors why abuse by women is underreported and not commonly expressed. Some of these are:
The effect it has on “masculinity” – Due to patriarchy, the abuse of a man by a woman doesn’t come off as abuse. In a society where men are placed as the dominant gender, to insinuate that they have been abused by the “weaker” gender. In a preliminary study done on Assessing Sexual Abuse Against Children in Nigeria, where 90 men responded, respondents were asked if they felt violated after they were abused as children:
Source: Kwabe, 2019
From the above, it can be noted that despite being abused as children, 45.6% of the respondents do not feel like they were abused. In further interviews, the researcher pointed out that the respondents did not feel abused because they are “men” and feared the backlash they would get from admitting they were abused.
- The judgement from society – When a woman abuses a man, he is considered weak by society. So to avoid the judgments by society and law enforcement, most cases where women are perpetrators go unreported.
- Women cannot be abusers – For some reason, beyond understanding, some people feel women cannot be abusers. This is a myth and must be discarded. Women can be abusers.
- The effect it has on the community – Sometimes, people choose not to talk about their female abusers because of its impact on a group of people that belong to the same community (this includes the LGBTQ+ community). This is mainly based on the fact that when abuse has occurred, the conversations by the general public can be harmful to the community it affects at large.
What is the right way to talk to a child who has been sexually abused?
- Do not blame the child – Your first response should be collated. It is always shocking when you hear the news of abuse but, you need to think about the survivor and their immediate need. Do not start by asking questions like “why were you there” or “why did you not report it sooner”.
- Listen to the child – If a child chooses to tell you that they have been abused, you should create a safe space for them to talk. Don’t blame them. Children often take some responsibility when abuse occurs. It is your job to reassure them that they are not at fault.
- Involve a professional – It is essential that you talk to a professional organisation that specialises in child abuse. STER is always ready to help.
- Seek medical attention – Also, seek medical assistance from a certified hospital. If you intend to report the case to the police, do make sure that the hospital you use is certified by the Nigeria Police Force to gather evidence.
Who is to blame for the abuse?
Let’s paint a picture here when someone is robbed of their property. Do you blame them for having properties in the first place? No.
In that same light, only a perpetrator of a crime should be blamed for the crime.
If I had sex before 18 and enjoyed it, was I abused?
If you had sex before 18 with an adult (someone above 18), the answer is yes. You were abused, whether you liked it or not.
It is important to state that a law called the Romeo and Juliet Law is practised in the United States. This law allows an adult to have sex with a minor as long as the age gap is below two years.
However, this law is not practised everywhere. It doesn’t matter if you enjoyed the sex; it is simply not right for an adult to have a sexual relationship with a minor.
On the other hand, if both parties are minors, and the sex was consensual, you were not abused.
If my abuser apologises, am I wrong for granting forgiveness?
To be honest, there is no right or wrong answer to this question.
However, our professional advice is that you put yourself first and do what is right for you, and take it one step at a time. If you have reached the point of forgiveness, do so for your mental health. You do need to rush it, and you don’t need anyone telling you what to do regarding your feelings.
What do I do if my abuser is a family member I can’t avoid at family gatherings?
This is a pretty difficult question and does not have a one-size-fits-all response. You should put yourself first and make the decision you consider to be the most appropriate; this includes: speaking to trusted friends and family members about the abuse, reporting the crime, seeking counselling – STER offers this service free of charge, and you are allowed not to attend the family gatherings if it’s a trigger or you just don’t want to.
We understand that the current societal and familial beliefs treat this case as one that “should not be public” but STER upholds the belief that the survivor comes first and whatever decision they make is the best.
In a nutshell, if family events are triggering because your abuser is there, try to avoid attending. Protect your space (both mentally and physically).
As a man, how can I help fight against sexual violence?
The fight against sexual violence should be everyone’s fight. The tips below will help men and also anyone who needs to know how to actively contribute to ending sexual violence.
- Don’t shield an abuser.
- Self-evaluation and reeducating yourself.
- Be accountable.
- Show empathy towards the victims.
- Push for more inclusive systems that involve women.
- Speak up and support organisations that are fighting for justice for victims.